Argue a point: Research Support

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    • #2464
      Ruth McConchie

      I currently work in a faculty specific academic library physically embedded within the faculty and as  a result of my experience, I would argue that librarians should develop expertise in a specific area.  In Australian universities, research is a strategic priority and as academic libraries are genuine partners in research,  professional collaborative relationships must be developed.

      Expertise in particular subject areas allows librarians to focus their attention on the academic research on their subject while remaining up-to-date on trends within the industry. In conjunction with collection development, subject specification helps librarians to support students, academics and researchers informational needs which improves the relationship with the faculty and the library. MacColl and Jubb argue that the research community would more readily accept them [research librarians] as equal partners if they demonstrated their research experience in conjunction with their librarianship skills. Lecturers feel more confident asking for the librarians to come and talk to their classes, which then makes the students more likely to come to the library for assistance. This relationship builds over the undergraduate degree so when students become HDR students and early career academics, librarians become trusted advisors to researchers,. Librarians understand the academic’s research outcomes and achievements and can help pre-empt future challenges and needs. Currently in research universities, with their great emphasis on research productivity, this would be a significant contribution to universities’ strategic plans, and help to ensure that librarians are seen as essential to the research endeavor. Librarians should also remain flexible and adaptable to the needs and trends of the industries researchers work with, for example the expanding use of data, special collections and archives. As the NMC Horizon Report: 2015 Library edition describes technology will continue to evolve, and libraries must stay up to date to remain relevant.

      There are too many subject specific databases and resources for a discipline agnostic librarian to learn and navigate. Subject specific librarians are able to help new researchers with key terms when starting their research. For example if HDR students are from overseas, librarians can assist the researchers to find the appropriate search terms, particularly if they are on the cutting edge of their research area where there may not be anything published. Subject specific librarians are well positioned to facilitate and assist collaboration between industry and researchers, also with the storage of code, data and datasets. As Mamtora outlines …the research librarian’s role is itself in a state of continual transition, and is changing from a supportive relationship to a collaborative partnership, from one that is on the periphery to one that is embedded within the research community.

      Librarians don’t necessarily need to be embedded in the faculty, however I have observed how more accidental and informal meetings occur with the faculty and the students. The exclusivity of some research cultures and faculties can be more easier infiltrated by the embedded library and relationships developed by the subject-specific librarians. Embedded librarians can attend lectures, impromptu talks, witness the stages development of their faculty’s research and see what research cultures are developing within the faculty. Although subject specific librarians may not always suit the informational needs of the faculty, from my experience, libraries that are embedded in the faculty encourage a culture of collaboration that is a strategic goal of many universities.

    • #2495
      Katherine Lee

      Great post Ruth! I completely agree. I think there are so many benefits from having subject specialists in academic libraries. I think that the main benefit is the perception of the library within a faculty. As you mention faculty are more likely to respect librarians who show a genuine interest, passion and expertise in the same subject matter. This is so important to gaining supportive stakeholders and champions of the library who can promote the library’s services to other stakeholders.

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